I requested Fleishman Is In Trouble before it came out, because of the reviews. When I picked it up and started reading, I felt a bit dubious. The opening scene stars Manhattanite Toby Fleishman, who, as a recently-single newly-separated middle-aged man, is discovering the rich world of dating apps. The rich, rich world of dating apps. As a man who spent his actual dating years learning to handle rejection, Toby is astonished at what is now available to him, all through his smartphone. I won’t go into the details here.
So yes, I was skeptical. But this book is sneaky. It pulls you into Toby’s story, sharing his thoughts and point of view. The plot thickens when his ex-wife, Rachel, drops their two kids off at Toby’s apartment while he is sleeping, and proceeds to completely disappear. Toby just has to figure out how he’s going to juggle childcare, his job, and his new dating life, while he frantically tries to get in touch with Rachel. Because you are getting the story from Toby’s viewpoint, you empathize with him and his worries and his efforts to cope with his responsibilities.
This is pretty much the springboard for the rest of it, and I do not do spoilers here, so I will only share that everything shifts around as the story progresses, and the book becomes less about these exact characters and more about what it means to be a person, our expectations and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the people we share our lives with. It is observant and insightful and it touched on truths about people and society that strongly resonated with me.
Also, if you, like me, are Gen X, this is a story for our generation. (Yes, really. Somebody wrote something FOR US in Gen X!!) It’s poignant to recognize the struggles and the mental load that feel so familiar to people in our age demographic.
This is a really sneaky, smart book and I am telling everyone I know to read it, STAT.
Other smart books include:
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai